A recent report has revealed the three factors holding women back when seeking their first job in property, these include unequal growth opportunities (17%), bias in the workplace (33%) and lack of female role models in the field (29%). In recognition of International Women’s Day on Monday 8th March, Notting Hill Genesis’ female Director of Sales and Marketing, Suzanne Luscombe (36), explains what it’s like to have a career in the housebuilding industry.
Joining Notting Hill Genesis in 2019, Suzanne began her property career 19 years ago, and has worked for a number of well-known developers. She explains: “I have been in the property sector for as long as I can remember, doing all sorts of roles. I love everything that Housing Associations are able to offer the community, and am delighted to have utilised my 11 years of private sector experience focusing on the customer journey. I joined as Head of Sales and am now Director of Sales and Marketing, covering everything from private sales to shared ownership, which is busy, but great fun!”
Suzanne had always been destined for a career in property, she explains: “I was always going to have a career in property sales, that has been my passion. But in particular, I wanted to sell people their dream. In my job I get to help people onto the property ladder whether that’s a personal purchase or an investment, its extremely rewarding.”
“My route into property was quite unique! I have family in the business, so had grown up surrounded by the industry in one way or another. When my grandad passed away, my family and I inherited his home, which we let out to a Housing Association for six years as a source of additional income. When it came to selling the house I instantly knew the potential of the home. My dad gave me permission to take control and I went in with some school friends and decorated it, horrifically!
“I invited the estate agents over who valued the property, I didn’t agree with the asking price so decided to sell the home myself, I was 17. I went to the local fish and chip shop and when asked, explained why I was covered in pink and green paint, the owner wanted to view the property, so I showed him around the house and explained the history. He saw past the horrific paint job and paid me £20K over what the estate agents had suggested. That’s where my passion started, and the great thing is that the family is still in the home.”
Suzanne didn’t attend university and doesn’t have any formal qualifications in the property field, she expands: “I didn’t leave school with a degree. I studied Business and IT GNVQ’s at school which helped me to understand profit and loss as well as making margins on things, it set me up well. I started my career at an estate agency and within three months I ended up in Land and New Homes which gave me the insight into making surplus on units, build costs and the construction process. Because of this I know the industry inside out, I don’t regret not going to university or achieving official qualifications in the field. For young adults thinking of starting a career in property, there are many routes to choose from, apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn on the job.”
Discussing her experience of being a woman in construction, Suzanne revealed that at the beginning her career, construction was very much a man’s world. She explains: “The industry has changed massively since I began my career, specifically over the last five years. I always joked that I was in a man’s world! I was very young when I began working in sales, at that time the men were seen as builders and sales was very much a female role. I quickly learnt to assert myself and make sure I spoke up in meetings, I was very much over looked in some of the bigger meetings I had to attend and that was very disheartening.”
“When I went onto site during the early stages of my career everyone would stare as though they’d never seen a woman before! Thankfully, this has changed a lot in recent years. I worked for one housebuilder who had a policy that everyone was equal, if any comments were made about women being on site the person involved would be disciplined, this was a great step forward in achieving equality in the industry.”
“Now companies are encouraging women to become site managers, a career path that I originally wanted to pursue. This has massively changed who you see in those meetings and the way management in construction looks.”
For Suzanne, being a woman in construction has been a challenge at times, she explains: “Being a woman was a disadvantage in construction, the men in the industry didn’t want to help me learn or grow my career. Now, I have proved myself and am respected by men, it has taken a long time. I had some great female role models and mentors in the industry and I wouldn’t be here without them.”
“I think if the system would have been different I would have become a site manager myself. Originally, sales and marketing was the natural place for a woman in construction, in a way we were pigeon holed as finance and build or planning were definitely out of reach. Notting Hill Genesis has no gender bias, the whole company is inclusive from finance to sales you can get involved in anything here.”
Discussing how construction could be better promoted to young girls, Suzanne concludes: “I would definitely recommend the house building industry to young women and girls. It has the biggest set of wings you can imagine. From mansions to flats, the variety of different tenures, planning and sales or after care there is so much to get involved with. Promotion around careers in construction needs to be better, it’s not just building and house sales. There’s so much more involved, if people understood the conveyance process, Housing Associations and the vast variety of the industry I think there would be more interest from young women. As a whole, there is still progress to made, but it’s not so much a man’s world anymore.”
One of the largest housing associations in the UK, Notting Hill Genesis have a number of properties for sale in London and the South East. For further information visit www.nhgsales.co.uk